As Hurricane Harvey was on its path of destruction through southeast Texas in late August, country singer Clint Black — who was raised in the Houston area and still has family there — began wondering what he could do to help out storm-stricken survivors
“I [thought] I’m gonna have to do something, and singing is what I do best,” Black says during a phone interview. “So I started thinking about my friends who are great organizers.”
One of those friends is Ed Bass, the Fort Worth billionaire, who happened to be at a Lyle Lovett concert at Fort Worth’s Bass Hall when he received Black’s text.
“It wasn’t any big plan,” Black said, “other than ‘I need to do something. I thought you might be interested in helping.’ All he said was, ‘I’m in.’ ”
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And then Bass went backstage at the hall named for his parents and asked Lovett if he was in. And he was. Black and Bass both know singer Don Henley, and contacted him. And he was in, too.
The result — “Helping Texans: A Hurricane Harvey Benefit Concert” — takes place Tuesday night at Bass Hall. It will feature Black, Lovett and Henley, plus at least a couple of special guests (Black divulges that one will be singer-actress Lisa Hartman Black, his wife of 26 years).
The musicians are donating their time, and all expenses are being underwritten by Ed Bass. All ticket proceeds will go to the Hurriance Harvey Relief Fund at the North Texas Community Foundation, which will distribute proceeds from the concert to charitable organizations and programs in Houston and in Aransas County that are bringing relief to those affected by the hurricane.
Response has already been strong: Original ticket prices ranged from $150 to $1,000, but as of Nov. 21, only a few tickets were left at the $250 and $350 levels, according to the Bass Hall website.
At the time of his interview with the Star-Telegram, Black said that the singers were still working out how the show was going to go — including whether the singers would perform together.
“We haven’t completely settled on what the extras are,” Black said. “But we’re all going to, at the very least, each do a set. Lyle is going to do a pared-down version of his normal show; I’ll be bringing my whole band, and Don will be bringing his whole band. And we’ll build on that. ... We have a couple of good ideas, but I don’t want to give anything away.”
Black is the only one of the singers who isn’t a native Texan, but as the bumper sticker says, he got here as fast as he could. He was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, but his family moved to Katy, just outside of Houston, when he was still a baby. His family dodged the worst of the Harvey damage, which mostly came from flooding. (Henley was born in Gilmer, about 125 miles east of Dallas, and raised in Linden, even farther into East Texas; Lovett was born and raised in Klein, a small town that was named for his great-grandfather and eventually became a suburb of Houston.)
“My family was lucky,” Black says. “Not all my friends were lucky. My family, it got really close to my mom’s house. It came up in the yard, but then it receded, so we lucked out. But I had one friend whose house was in escrow. He was selling his house, and it got pretty much destroyed.”
According to Fortune magazine, the hurricane damage could cost up to $180 billion along the Gulf Coast. Fort Worth responded in a big way after the hurricane hit: Operation Airdrop, a group of private pilots flying supplies down to the coast (and later to victims of Hurricane Irma and other storms), originated in Fort Worth. And Fort Worth chefs Jon Bonnell and Terry Chandler and their crews helped serve thousands of Hurricane Harvey survivors and first responders at a relief camp nicknamed “Cowboy Camp David” in the Port Aransas area.
But Black doesn’t want others to see efforts like those as just big-hearted Texan things.
“I think that’s a human thing,” Black says. “Being a Texan, I’d like to let my bias show, but I believe it’s really the way we are as people. You can see it in resort towns. I know people who live in resort towns and they rely on their neighbors more than us city dwellers. ... It always renews my faith, and I get a surge in that good feeling about people. If you show people a way that they can really help, then you’ll end up with a lot of help.”
Black has played Fort Worth multiple times, of course — including Bass Hall. And in 2016, he and Henley were part of another Fort Worth event, when Henley presented Black with the Stephen Bruton Award (named for the late Fort Worth singer-guitarist) at the Lone Star Film Festival.
In a video Black made to promote the show, he says that his connection with Henley began when he covered the Eagles’ “Desperado” for the 1993 tribute album “Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles.” Black has since helped Henley with the Walden Woods Project, a charity dedicated to preserving “the land, literature and legacy of Henry David Thoreau” and to environmental stewardship and social responsibility. And Henley helped Black with flood-relief efforts along the Mississippi River in the ’90s.
Black says he likes playing venues like Bass Hall the most, because he can have a small conversation between songs — or play the biggest rocking version of one of his tunes — and it all works.
“I play every kind of venue, and the only thing I adapt to is whether or not the audience feels intimate,” Black says. “If it feels intimate, then you can work in the finer brushstrokes. If it’s not very intimate, then you drive the music hard and don’t try to push much more than performance.”
While he has been working on this benefit, Black also has been developing a Christmas musical, which Variety reports will have a theater-industry reading in early December in New York. The musical centers on a young veteran struggling with PTSD while trying to reconnect with his wife and daughter, according to Variety.
“I always have a full plate, so I’m always challenging myself,” Black says. “And I’m also a husband and a dad. It’s always a balancing act, but I’m very disciplined, and so I’m able to make it work. The main thing for me is if someone pays to see a show, I want my vocal cords in good working order, and I want my chops on guitar and harmonica to be up.”
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.
Helping Texans: A Hurricane Harvey Benefit Concert
Presented by Clint Black, Don Henley and Lyle Lovett
7:30 p.m. Nov. 28
Tickets remain at the $250 and $350 level (four-ticket limit). All proceeds benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and in Aransas County.